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Psalm 119:162 I rejoice at Your word As one who finds great treasure. (NKJV)

Today we continue our challenge of committing ourselves to private time with God. We have learned about the importance and blessing of devotion, and yesterday, looked at some practical steps for prayer time. Let’s look at some suggestions for increasing the quality of our Bible study.

A common reason for inconsistent and dull Bible study, is a lack of planning. When you casually open the Bible and read with no real focus or purpose, it is not reasonable to expect God to flood you with excitement and enlightenment. The Bible will come alive and give you great expectation if you treat Scripture for what it is: the very words of the Creator and King of the Universe. After your time of prayer as discussed yesterday, your heart and mind will be clean and prepared to read the Word of God.

Before you actually begin reading, take a minute to pray and ask God to open your eyes to understand what you are going to read. Ask Him to show you the true meaning and how to apply it to your life. Ask God to bless your reading time with excitement, expectation and illumination. While you read, continually cycle inquisitive thoughts about the text: who, what, when, where and why.

  • Who’s this being written to? Who is it talking about?
  • What does it mean? What is the purpose?
  • When was it written? Is this about all times, or only for a specific time?
  • Where was the writer? Where are the locations of the places described? Where did these events occur? What was the culture of the time?
  • Why did God write this? Why was in this style, by this person, in this situation? Why is it located in this part of the Bible?

Continually ask this very important question: SO WHAT? That’s another way of saying, “what does this mean to my life? How will this transform me more into the image of Christ and bring more glory to God?”. It boils down to two basic questions:

What did the writer mean to convey to the original reader?
How does it apply to my life with God?

With your spirit prepared through prayer; your mind and heart opened and asking the right questions; you can now begin your plan to read. There is no perfect plan for everyone. There is no magic formula or secret. The important thing is to actually DO IT.

If you are one who is struggling with inconsistency, a good way to start is to have a one year Bible Reading Plan that takes you methodically through Scripture. They are very easy to obtain, and you can even purchase Bibles that already have the dates right on the pages to make it easy.

A plan that includes small portions of the Old Testament, New Testament and other Books each day, generally keeps your attention easier than just starting at Genesis and reading straight through. It gets tough somewhere around Leviticus or so. There is a good Bible Reading Plan on my website at: http://www.seriousfaith.com/plan

This year-long reading plan takes you through the Old Testament (once), Psalms and Proverbs (once) and the New Testament (twice)… you get a little of each every day. Don’t worry that you have missed some days already. Just get the schedule and start tomorrow on the right date. If you can make time, go back and catch up the days you have missed.

If you miss a day, you miss a day. Just move on. Many people get discouraged and quit if they miss a few days thinking that somehow it just won’t do them any good to continue because they missed. Don’t let that be a reason to quit! Just keep going. Catch up later if you can, but don’t allow the stress of missing sometimes cause you to give up. So the basic plan is this:

  • Prayer following the guidelines from yesterday
  • Bible reading following one-year plan

Now, for those of you a little more motivated, here are some additional suggestions. To do the whole list would take an average reader about two hours. It’s not “all or nothing”. Choose parts of it to add to your routine as your devotional time increases:

  • One hour in prayer based on the guidelines I gave you yesterday
  • One hour of Bible reading and contemplation of God’s Word
    • Start with a Bible Reading Plan (http://www.seriousfaith.com/plan) so that you know you will methodically read the entire Bible and not neglect any portions. Read today’s selection.
    • Next, read the full chapter in Proverbs that corresponds with the day’s date. For example, today is January 24th, so read Proverbs 24
    • Next, go to the corresponding “date chapter” in Psalms; today would have been Psalms 24 (Jan. 24th).
      • After reading that chapter, you add 30 to the date number (24 + 30) to take you now to chapter 54. After reading Chapter 54, add 30 again, taking you to Chapter 84; and so on until you get to the end of Psalms, typically 5 chapters.
        • Why all these Psalms? Because Psalms covers the spectrum of all human emotions and experience. By covering those five chapters, you will ALWAYS find something that fits perfectly with whatever you are experiencing in life at the moment. It is normally my favorite time of reading each day.
    • Next, read a chapter from Ecclesiastes or Job because they speak such truth and wisdom about everyday life
      • Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes are the “wisdom” books
    • Finally, choose a New Testament “book of the month” (but not more than 7 full chapters because of the time it takes to read it). Read the same New Testament book (or seven chapters) every day, over and over, for 30 days in order to become thoroughly familiar with it. When time doesn’t permit reading the entire book, listen to it on CD while you work or drive; and read it before going to bed at night.
    • We’re not just trying to see how much we can read as if greater amounts make us more “godly”. Speed and quantity are NOT the goal, but you will read faster with practice. It is a natural by-product of extensive reading.

Psalm 119:9-11 How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; (NKJV)

I don’t want to leave you feeling like this is “too much”, so let me close with some encouragement. The important thing is to start with something, and be consistent. Don’t be impulsive and try to be “super Christian”. If you have experienced inconsistency and failure up to this point, start with a goal you know you can realistically keep. Here is a reasonable plan to get started with:

  • Following the prayer guidelines from yesterday, start with 90 seconds on each of the 12 segments described. That’s 18 minutes of prayer.
  • Get a Bible Reading plan. Start with today’s date and its reading selection. Don’t worry about what you have missed. Read the passages listed for today. It will take an average reader about 30 minutes.

By doing this, you can immediately begin with about a one hour daily devotional! Isn’t that exciting?! You will be so blessed and amazed at what God will do in your life that you will soon find yourself increasing your time with God each day!

Psalm 119:2 Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, Who seek Him with the whole heart! (NKJV)

Father, as we commit to a plan to get serious about spending regular, disciplined time in Your Presence; we ask for Your strength and power to be faithful and consistent. Bless our time with You. We ask You to make it a time of excitement, refreshment and expectation. Amen.

Contemplation: Is your devotion time to this point inconsistent and ineffective? Do you believe that if you make the CHOICE to pray and study, God will bless you with the “feelings” of desire for it?
Application: Start with a plan and time you know you can keep. Do it consistently. Let nothing be more important.

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